Digitalising agri-food value chains in East Africa

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Agriculture is more than just a sector in East Africa: it is the backbone of the region’s economies. In Kenya for instance, about 80 percent of the workforce participates in farming or food processing, while in Tanzania, the sector contributes nearly $13.9 billion to the GDP. Overall, it accounts for nearly 30 percent of GDP in the region and employs over 60 percent of the population. It is vital to develop and implement innovative interventions that support the development of the sector.

Recognising the importance of technology infrastructure in agricultural development, SNV’s Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) Project is promoting several approaches that support specific food value chains in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to think through and develop appropriate technological innovations.

This support includes improving access to the internet to implementing digital solutions that bridge the gap between agricultural researchers, extension workers, small holder farmers and other value chain actors. It also facilitates market access for inputs as well as product marketing and trade in a variety of ways.

FreshCrop Co. Ltd using digital platforms

FreshCrop Co. Ltd is just one out of the 46 agribusinesses that CRAFT has supported to put in place digital platforms that work towards increasing efficiencies in food value chains in a secure, simple and transparent manner.

Located in Kenya, FreshCrop has digitalised several company processes that have not only increased the agricultural productivity and incomes of potato small holder farmers in Kenya, but also built their resilience to evident climate risks.

For instance, the company leverages on social media platforms like Facebook, and a bulk SMS system to connect farmers, buyers and agents, thereby removing the need for the farmers to walk long distances to sell their produce at local markets. And as a result of more direct access to buyers and the ability to network by sending updates via SMS about their produce, farmers are able to make a higher profit margin on the value of their crop yield.

When it comes to increasing the uptake of mechanised farming, FreshCrop uses the Hello Tractor app to schedule the hire of the company’s tractor services. Through this app, the company is in position to track availability, movements, productivity, and check measurements (acreage) of farms serviced. On the other hand, the potato small holder farmers aggregated under FreshCrop are in position to use Hello Tractor to book tractor services and also provide feedback on their efficiency.

Currently, FreshCrop is piloting the use of FarmForce application to manage farmer data and provide more targeted information and agronomy advice to the farmers (such as on localised weather forecasts and about access to new services for farmers in the areas of finance and insurance). Additionally, through the use of FarmForce, Fresh Crop is able to able to monitor farmers’ loan lifecycles, including their financial health and ability to meet obligations. This helps the company to ensure that the borrower(s) remain financially healthy, and the agribusiness’s investment is protected.

The above CRAFT facilitated appropriated and innovative technologies have not only strengthened food value chain linkages in East Africa, but also contributed to bridging the gap between thousands of rural farmers and the region’s food and economic landscape.

Written by: Sandra Nassali (CRAFT Communications Officer)
More information: Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) is a five-year project, implemented in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda with focus on three pillars; increasing adoption of climate smart practices and technologies amongst farmers and agro-enterprises; increasing investments and business growth in climate smart value chains; and creating enabling environment necessary to ensure large-scale roll-out of market driven climate smart agriculture. The project is passionate about women and youth inclusion as one of the indicators seeks to increase the number of women and youth employed in the private sector. The cross-cutting workstream for gender and youth inclusion emphasizes targeted interventions where needed, to ensure equity and inclusion through a sustainable gender sensitive climate smart service provision.